By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
Akimbo Systems, a startup Internet-based video-on-demand service provider, rolled out its Internet-to-TV service nationwide and announced that Amazon.com has signed on to sell Akimbo players.
The Akimbo service provides thousands of movies and specialized standard-definition video programs to subscribers who download content using a digital video recorder-like “player” and a broadband connection.
The Akimbo players, which retail for $229.99, continually download and update videos to a hard drive for easy playback using a “Que and View” interface.
Akimbo said it has reached an agreement to use Amazon as its exclusive retail partner for the 2004 holiday season.
The goal of the company is to “provide the most comprehensive selection of video-on-demand programming available on TV,” said Steve Shannon, Akimbo sales and marketing executive VP, who was one of the founders of the ReplayTV DVR.
The set-top box can store up to 200 hours of video at a time on its 80GB hard drive and provides controls for pause, rewind and archive.
Programs are accessed and programmed using an onscreen guide and a customized remote control.
The onscreen guide carries information for channels, video previews, editorial information and viewer options like parental controls. From the guide, Akimbo subscribers choose which programming they would like to download to the Akimbo player for later viewing.
The Akimbo service works with any broadband-Internet connection and a home network. Consumers simply connect their wired or wireless home networks to their Akimbo players, which then connect to their televisions through standard A/V cables.
The Akimbo player plays back video files in widely adopted formats including Windows Media 9, which adds digital rights management encryption.
Consumers can sign up for Akimbo service by visiting www.akimbo.com. For a limited time, customers ordering an Akimbo player from Amazon.com will receive three months of free Akimbo service, normally $9.99 per month, or $30 off a lifetime subscription.
Users will pay a $9.99 per month subscription fee to receive basic content and program listings. For additional fees, users can add premium subscription services and pay-per-view offerings for such content as newly released movies, which would run $3 to $4 extra, for example, or ethnic content, such as Chinese TV.
The service offers consumers 50 categories of content, including mainstream, classic and independent films, foreign language, news, health and fitness, sports, children's programs, education and more.
At no additional charge, subscribers can download to the player series such as “The Jewel In the Crown” and “Arthur C. Clarke's Mysterious Universe” from one of the United Kingdom's largest television distribution companies, Granada International.
Independent film buffs can check out comprehensive catalogues from Undergroundfilm, GreenCine, Amaze Films and IFILM. Consumers interested in more mainstream entertainment can program their Akimbo Player to receive news specials and features from CNN, award-winning classic movies from the Turner Classic Movies' (TCM) library and favorite cartoon episodes from the Cartoon Network.
Premium services on Akimbo include hundreds of Chinese language programs, including TV serials, movies, musicals and variety shows on the AsiaMovieChannel.
Sports channels include difficult-to-find programs, including Sail.TV's coverage of najor regattas and race series, and surf, skate and snowboarding videos from UNION* The Board Riding Channel — Quiksilver Entertainment's new outdoor action sports programming division.
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